Have you heard of Pig Latin? While not really a proper language, and nothing really to do with Latin, Pig Latin is a pseudo language with very simple rules and which is easy to learn, but also sounds like complete gibberish to anyone who doesn’t know Pig Latin. Children in particular enjoy experimenting with Pig Latin, as it gives them an easy way to speak freely in front of people who don’t understand Pig Latin, without having to take a lot of time to learn the rules.
The Four Rules of Pig Latin
There are four basic rules of Pig Latin, the mastery of which will allow you to speak any English sentence in Pig Latin immediately.
Rule One – Words Beginning with a Consonant
When a word begins with a consonant (such as dog) or a consonant cluster (such as brush), simply take the consonant/consonant cluster and move it to the end of the word, adding the suffix ‘-ay’ to the end of the word. This sounds difficult in theory but is actually much simpler in practice.
For example, ‘dog’ in Pig Latin becomes ‘og-day’ (because the leading consonant ‘d’ has been moved to the end of the word, leaving simply ‘og’ at the beginning, and the suffix ‘-ay’ has been appended to the ‘d’).
Our other example was the word ‘brush’, which becomes ‘ush-bray’ in Pig Latin, by following the same rule.
Rule Two – Words Beginning with a Vowel
When a word begins with a vowel, simply leave the word as is and add the suffix ‘-hay’ to the end of the word. Other variations include adding ‘-yay’ or even ‘-way’, and you’ll find that it surprisingly does not make a difference which of these is used.
For example, ‘elephant’ in Pig Latin becomes ‘elephant-hey’.
An interesting situation arises when a word technically begins with a vowel that appears to begin with a consonant sound. An example is the word ‘one’. While it begins with the vowel ‘o’, the starting sound is the ‘w’ sound. In this instance, treat the word as if it started with ‘w’, so it would become (phonetically) ‘un-way’. It then becomes clear that Pig Latin is primarily a spoken pseudo language, and relies upon the way words sound rather than the way they are spelled.
Rule Three – Words Containing the Letter ‘Y’
Again, Pig Latin is primarily a spoken language, rather than a written one. The way in which the letter ‘y’ is handled depends on whether the ‘y’ is being used in the word as a consonant or a pseudo vowel. For example, the ‘y’ in ‘yolk’ is a consonant sound, whereas the ‘y’ in ‘fly’ is a vowel. Depending on which of these cases applies, you will revert back to either Rule One or Two.
Rule Four – Compound Words
Compound words are best split up before being translated into Pig Latin, for the simple reason that the word may become obvious if it is not split up. For example, if you said the word ‘etterbox-lay’ out loud, most people – whether they understand Pig Latin or not – would be able to figure out that you are referring to a letterbox. By splitting up the word into ‘letter’ and ‘box’, you can convert it into Pig Latin as ‘etter-lay ox-bay’, which suddenly can’t be translated by non-Pig Latin speakers.